(1) Where a tribunal constituted under the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946 acts for an area (whether consisting of one or more districts in which that Act is in force) wholly comprised in the area for which a panel is formed under Schedule 2 to this Act the Minister may direct the president of the panel to exercise on behalf of the Minister the power to appoint the chairman and other members of the tribunal and any person to act in the place of a member during the member's absence or incapacity.
(2) A person appointed by the president of a panel by virtue of a direction under this section shall be selected by the president from the panel; and while the direction is in force section 3 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1958 (appointment of chairman) shall not apply to the tribunal, but the president shall appoint as chairman or person to act as chairman of the tribunal either himself or one of the other members of the panel appointed by the Lord Chancellor.—[Mr. Crossman.]
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I mentioned this Clause in the discussion on the previous Clause. This is the Clause which deals with the appointment of rent tribunals by the president of the rent assessment panel. I need only say about this Clause that it enables us to see to it, where it is thought necessary, that the rent tribunal that deals with furnished house rents can be appointed by the president of the rent assessment panel.
I think that it is clear that in the long run, legislation dealing with furnished lettings will probably be integrated with that dealing with unfurnished lettings. This would be far too big a job on this occasion. But we have felt it necessary to integrate the staffing of the two.
Subsection (1) of the Clause enables the Minister, in suitable areas, to delegate to the president of the rent assessment panel his function of appointing the chairman and members. Subsection (2) requires the president to make all such appointments from among members of the panel and the appointment of the chairman, or reserve chairman, from among those members of the panel whom the Lord Chancellor has appointed.
The result will be that we can make sure that when, for instance, the work of the rent assessment committee on unfurnished lettings is slacking off in a certain area, by joining the two together the work of the furnished rent tribunal can be done by the same people as deal with unfurnished rents.
This being the object of the Clause, an object which hon. Gentleman have asked us to pursue in the interests of economy of manpower and sensible organisation, I rather hope we shall be able to get it without too much criticism from an Opposition which has always been anxious, and rightly so, to see that we economise in manpower in every possible way.
It is very true that there is a need to have broadly similar arrangements for furnished and unfurnished lettings and, during the Committee stage, the right hon. Gentleman did forecast that he would like to have complete assimilation, but he added that he felt the time was not yet right. This seems to me to be certainly a step in the right direction.
The Minister feels it is necessary to make a new Clause of this, but I do not know whether that is really so. It is very valuable that he should state his intention, but is it really necessary to have a new Clause when he could obtain the same result simply by writing to the chairman of the rent tribunal and telling him to appoint the particular nominee he wishes to appoint or, alternatively, by the chairman of the rent tribunal writing to him saying, "I recommend that you take on Mr. Snodgrass as chairman of the furnished rent tribunal", and the Minister then appointing him? It is only a matter of one or two more letters and, while I agree it is a bit more work for the Ministry, it does not really seem essential to have this Clause.
I was brought up to believe that a new Clause cost the taxpayer about £100,000 and that it was, therefore, to be avoided if possible. But it may be that is an excessive figure in this case.
I would be grateful if the Minister could explain the effect of subsection (2). The Tribunals and Inquiries Act, to which the subsection refers, says, in Section 3:
(1) The chairman, or any person appointed to act as chairman, of any of the tribunals to which this subsection applies shall (without prejudice to any statutory provisions as to qualifications) be selected by the appropriate authority from a panel of persons appointed by the Lord Chancellor.
As I understand it, subsection (2) of the new Clause says precisely that, and it goes on to say that Section 3 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act shall not apply. In other words, it does not apply, and then precisely the same words do apply in the subsection. It seems a little peculiar, and it would be interesting to have some explanation of subsection (2).
Finally, I notice in the Tribunals and Inquiries Act that whereas it is the Lord Chancellor who approves the panel, in Scotland it is the Lord President of the Court of Session. It appears from subsection (2), however, that although the Tribunals and Inquiries Act wording is followed the Lord Chancellor is substituted. Is it the case that the Lord Chancellor appoints the panel in Scotland, as would appear from the new Clause?
This is a beneficial Clause, but we should get confirmation of something that was said in Committee. Subsection (2) refers to the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958, and says that Section 3 of that Act shall be excluded. But Section 3 has never applied to the Bill as it stands at present; in fact, the Tribunals and Inquiries Act does not apply to the Bill at all, anywhere. Therefore, under this Clause we are assuming that the Minister will make an order applying the Tribunals and Inquiries Act to the rent assessment committee as well as to the furnished rent tribunals.
It seems rather extraordinary to enact that another Act shall not apply when it still does not apply but may yet apply on an order of the Minister hereafter, but I think that that is the result of this new Clause. Perhaps the Minister would like again to confirm that he intends to make an order under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, making that Act apply to the rent assessment committee as well as to the furnished rent tribunals.